You need to stop mindlessly trying harder. Your life satisfaction and overall success depend on it.
We set big goals for ourselves. And rightly we should! We see the next steps in our future so close we can taste it. Some want to gain promotions and work our way to the top. Some want to make our passions into businesses. Some just want more fun in their lives.
THE MISTAKE WE MAKE WITH GOALS
However, we make a common mistake when working towards our goals.
What did you do the last time you got excited over a brand new goal? Perhaps you wrote out a quick action plan. Maybe you took immediate action.
If your goal was small, you probably nailed it. You over-achiever, you. Like a small hill in a valley, you sprinted up it, weaved between the rocks along the way, and finally triumphed at the top! You then proudly pulled out a flag with your face on it, stuck it in the ground, and proudly placed your hands on your hips nodding and grinning to the world below you. Victory is yours!
But when we aim for larger goals, like building a business, we’re no longer talking about a hill. We’re talking about Mount Everest. Still surmountable, but it’s no day hike.
Common advice is to plan it out and take it one day at a time. Here’s the problem. Some days, we’re excited to achieve our goal. We even make much more progress than we originally planned. It feels INCREDIBLE when we have days of “Flow”, when time just flies by and so do our to-dos.
But then disaster strikes. We’ve lost our steam. Some days, we just get tired. We don’t FEEL like doing the task. Try as we might to push ourselves through it with caffeine and sheer willpower. We TRY harder. We feel more and more stressed about working. But the day eventually comes where we start to get distracted with other things life brings us. We wonder if it’s really that important to tackle that goal after all.
And we eventually give up. And we tell ourselves, “If only I had more willpower. Or if I only tried harder…” And feel more guilty than when we started.
THE TRICK TO CLIMBING YOUR EVEREST
How do we avoid this terrible cycle? Often, our problem lies in the beginning. We don’t start off thinking about those low motivation days. We just assume that this time will be different. This time, I’ll listen to the Rocky Theme while I work and I’ll persevere. And this is a self-deceiving approach.
The greatest trick to achieving your goals is using that initial enthusiasm to MAKE IT EASIER TO DO THE THING YOU WANT TO DO EVERY DAY.
We WILL encounter days devoid of any motivation to work. To think that “this goal will be different” is a recipe for frustration. Be honest with yourself – because your subconscious will be. I’ll tell you right now – you are extraordinarily smart and cannot be tricked easily. So all those times you tell yourself “Oh, this time will be different”, your subconscious knows differently. It knows there’s nothing really different this time other than the plan that you’ll work harder.
BUT – if we work to make the task easier to do, we’re doing two things for ourselves:
- By making the task easier, we truly DO make this time different, which motivates our subconsciousness.
- It becomes EASIER to do the task at hand, and HARDER to procrastinate! Your subconscious always looks for the path of least resistance. Not out of laziness, but out of resourcefulness — pay attention to this the next time you’re hiking or walking to a store. Your mind automatically persuades you to walk to your destination using as little energy as possible. By making it easier to do the task, now your mind will see doing the task as the most optimal path.
Now using this strategy doesn’t mean it WON’T take hard work to achieve your goal – even with the best gear and the best path, it still takes a LOT of work to climb Everest.
But now your hard work will go straight into making progress… rather than spending that energy trying to motivate yourself to work!
JOHN B AND HIS EVEREST
Consider the story of John B., a 30-something-year-old man who wants to shed some fat and build muscle. He can already imagine all the ladies lining up for him at the beach this summer.
He’s never exercised much before, but that’s okay. He’s excited for that beach body! So he wakes up at 5am to get to the gym by 5:30am. He’s used to waking at 6, so he’s a bit tired during work. But he’s on his way to progress, so he’s still excited!
But a few days later, his initial enthusiasm wears off.
One morning, Johnny’s so tired he hits the Snooze button – all these early morning wake-ups are exhausting. Now he must go straight to work and skip the gym. “I’ll just go to the gym after work”, he thinks. But when 5pm rolls around, he’s too tired to work out. He just goes home, feeling guilty for not working out.
This repeats for days until he finally gets so frustrated with himself, he gives up. Now John’s beating himself up, as he thinks HE is the problem – if only he had more willpower. If only he TRIED HARDER.
PREPARING FOR THE JOURNEY PROPERLY
Now John DID do something wrong, but it’s not something inherently wrong with HIM. He focused more on “trying hard” than he did making working out every morning easier.
Using his initial enthusiasm, he could have done several things:
- Placed his gym clothes and shoes in front of his bedroom door the night before.
- Hire a trainer to push him to go to the gym. Even if he’s not ready to pay for a trainer, he can get a friend to work out with him.
- Set up some negative feedback for himself, like giving an (honest) friend a check for $200 that she can cash if he misses a workout. (Note: There are ways to AUTOMATE text reminders so you don’t risk going to the gym but forgetting to text your friend you’ve done so and losing $200 for nothing – more on this in a future post)
- Most importantly: Accept that, one day despite all John’s best intentions, he WILL miss a workout. So he must plan AHEAD OF TIME how to get back on track when that happens… because he knows he won’t make that plan AFTER he’s been thrown off schedule.
You can do this for your own goals and habits, too.
MAKING YOUR PATH EASIER
Let’s immediately apply this concept to you. Take out a piece of paper and a pen and do the following:
1) Write down a goal, habit, or skill that you’ve always wanted to pick up, but have felt discouraged from starting.
Example: Become an expert in programming PLCs (a special type of computer)
2) Below that, write down a concrete END RESULT that, if you achieved it, you’d consider your answer to #1 a success.
A good question to consider is “What would I PHYSICALLY have in my hands once I’m done?”
Example: A PLC-driven electronics project that would automatically prepare an egg for breakfast every morning.
3) Now below that, write down an action you could take every day that would eventually add up to achieving that end result in #2.
My example: “Practice PLC programming for 45 minutes every day”
You should now have 3 lines at the top of this page.
4) Write down 3-5 things you can do to make it EASIER to do the thing you wrote in #3.
For my example, I’ve written:
* Download Freedom / Anti-Social to block the Internet. This way, I’m not tempted to mindlessly surf when I should be practicing.
* List every component and tool I need (both electronics and software) and buy everything I need.
* Put all of my documents and research into Evernote so I can easily search for a solution if I get stuck.
* Clean my electronics desk so I don’t feel discouraged to practice there.
* Create a simple script that opens ALL the programs I need INSTANTANEOUSLY. As soon as I sit down to practice, I click the icon and BOOM. Everything’s laid out for me. More on this script in a future post.
5) Take action on ONE of those tasks RIGHT NOW. Seriously. Go do it. I’ll wait.
This step is important. If you’re reading this on a weekend and your goal is a work task, then add the task on your calendar for Monday. Set it to text you so you don’t forget. It’s very important for your psychology to do this now.
If you need any guidance on this process, ask me here. I’d be glad to help.
MORE ON AUTOMATION AND MAKING YOUR RESULTS COME EASIER
I’ll be covering more on automation, making things easier, and amping your results without skyrocketing your workload.
If you’re excited by the thought of:
– Maintaining steady focus
– Automating annoying parts of your workload
– Using my tricks to systematically streamline your chores
… then join my exclusive Insiders List, where I’ll share tips and insights I won’t typically share here.